My teens and I love playing games in the library- video games (console and computer), board games, RPG games, and card games. It took a while for them to let down their guard enough to realize that, yes, they could actually have fun in a library, and yes, the weird person running the library was more than willing to play whatever game they had brought with them, whether it was Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokémon, or a regular deck of cards, or I would bring out one of the board games from the library office. And even longer to realize that given time, the weird person could beat them.
So when I started bringing in different board and card games into the library that they had never heard of, and showed them off with the same enthusiasm with which I showed off the newest addition to our comic or YA collection, they took note and were willing to try them. One that got them completely hooked was Fluxx and all its ever-expanding variations.
By the way, if you’ve never heard of Fluxx, get thyself to thy local comic book store immediately and ask for Zombie Fluxx. I’ve found that for those around me that it’s the gateway Fluxx– play a few rounds with others and they will be hooked and need to play it over and over again. The local comic book stores around me have decks of Fluxx, and I’ve found them in the big bookstores, chain stores, and they can be ordered online as well.
Created by Looney Labs, Fluxx is a game with ever-changing rules and ever-changing goals, and each version of Fluxx has slightly different variables. With Zombie Fluxx, for example, you have:
Keepers (the cards that you want to have, like sandwiches and friends)
Creepers (the cards that you don’t want to have, in this case Zombies)
New Rules (rules that get applied during the course of game play, like Every Time You Get a Zombie, You have to Groan Like a Zombie)
Actions (cards that tell the player something specific to do within the game, such as Take Three New Cards and Play Two of Them)
Goals (the combination of Keeper cards- or occasionally Creepers- that you need in order to win the game)
To start the game, each player is dealt three cards, and the rules are simple: for each turn, a player takes a card from the deck and then plays a card from their hand. The player who decides that they’re going to go first, goes first. You then play clockwise by the Beginning rules until someone lays down a New Rule. Then, beginning immediately, all gameplay follows that New Rule. And it goes on and on until someone wins the game.
What gets exciting is the changeability of the game. To start with, there is no goal in the beginning- there IS no way to win until someone actually puts down a Goal card. Then, in order to win, you have to have the correct combination of Keeper cards, typically without any Creepers. Not only that, the Goal can change at any moment, someone could play an Action card that could let them take away or destroy your Keeper, and you have to keep track of all the New Rules– because there can be any number of New Rules played. On one hand alone, you could have to:
Have only 2 Keepers
Have no cards in your hand at the end of your turn (either by playing or by discarding any unplayed cards)
Groan if you get any new zombies
It keeps teens on their toes, and when someone wins they gain bragging rights- and the others immediately want to play again. There have been many nights that we have shut down the library and stayed past closing in order to finish up a game.
What’s wonderful is that it’s building up their reading and comprehension skills as well as their logical thinking and reasoning on the sly, which are points that we as teen service specialists can bring to administration, parents, and anyone else who start questioning about having gaming in libraries.
While they’re playing cards and having fun with other teens, they’re having to read through all the directions on each and every card in order to play it properly- because you know if someone plays a card wrong, someone else will catch it and call them on it. They’re having to understand and reason out how to play the cards they have, and stay steps ahead of the other players to the best of their abilities in order not only to beat the other plays but also to beat the game- because there are ways that the game can win and there are no human winners.
They’re also building their social and interpersonal skills by playing with teens that are not necessarily within their immediate social circle- I’ve had a lot of luck drawing quieter teens into playing Fluxx after they’ve watched a few rounds, and after playing they’ve felt confident enough to start coming to programs and interacting with some of the more rambunctious attendees.
And there is at least one version of Fluxx that can appeal to everyone- Space Fluxx (with references to Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, and other TV and movie favorites, not to mention sci-fi literature classics), Pirate Fluxx, Wizard of Oz Fluxx, Adventure Time Fluxx, Monster Fluxx (with references to Scooby Doo and Buffy), just to name a few. Fair warning, though, there are some that may not be appropriate for library programming- such as Cthulhu Fluxx.
Definitely take the time to try it out with your teens at your library. You will not be disappointed.
Christie Gibrich found that aerospace engineering was not the right career path for her, and has been happily working with teens and tweens since 2001. She’s been on several committees, written numerous articles, and has spoken at state and national conferences on both QUILTBAG and comic/geek topics. Her pathway to geekdom and fangirl was basically predetermined having grown up surrounded by computers and sci-fi, and she now happily enjoys the worlds of comics, SuperWhoLock, Disnerds, midnight releases, and passionate debates over originals vs reboots. She's also recently relocated to the Orlando area, and exploring Florida while writing. She blogs at A Geek in Librarian’s Clothing. She tweets at @mz_christie and dabbles on Instagram and Tumblr.